Seeking solutions to human trafficking

UAlberta institute connects researchers, community groups and government officials working to end human trafficking in Ukraine.

By Michael Davies-Venn on March 22, 2013

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies today brought together scholars, community groups and government officials from Ukraine and Canada to find ways to solve the problem of human trafficking in Ukraine—a problem with global ramifications.

Bohdan Klid, assistant director of the institute, says the forum, entitled Trafficking of Women in Ukraine: Governmental and Non-governmental Responses, is a chance to connect people working on the issue from a range of perspectives.

“By bringing together experts and others interested in solving this problem, we create a network—people who come to the forum will learn more about the problem,” says Klid. “This meeting raises awareness of the problem, that it’s not just a problem for Ukraine but an international problem. These women end up all over the world—and some of them end up here in Canada.”

He says the institute’s focus goes beyond addressing historical issues related to Ukraine. “We also look at contemporary issues that touch on social matters, and this is a big social problem.”

Through the forum, Klid says, the U of A is providing a comprehensive response to a complex problem. Researchers in women’s and gender studies, law and political science are among the participants spending the day defining the scope of the problem and searching for solutions.

Political science professor Siobhan Byrne says a comprehensive approach to the issues of human trafficking also involves examining the local, national and international dimensions to get at the root causes.

“If we’re going to think about how international conventions, coupled with state legislation and front-line support, are going to work together to eradicate trafficking, then it requires this kind of interdisciplinary response,” Byrne says. “We have to look at the demand side of trafficking, and that requires all of us to consider how we’re complicit in the multiple vulnerabilities and insecurities that women in particular but men as well encounter, which leads to trafficking.”

Kateryna Levchenko, president of La Strada Ukraine, a pressure group against human trafficking in Ukraine, says she welcomes the initiative by the institute.

“It’s very important when an institute such as this is interested in an issue for Ukraine. Trafficking of human beings is one of the burning social issues in Ukraine. This year, Ukraine is the current chair of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and among the main topics of its leadership, Ukraine chose trafficking of human beings, a very real problem not only for Ukraine but for all OECD member countries including Canada.”

Levchenko says the problem has been taking a different form over the past few years.

“When we look at the people assisted by the International Organization for Migration and governmental organizations in Ukraine, we see that a majority are men. In 2004, we had 86 men and 540 women and in 2012, 414 women and 531 men. It means that there are a lot of changes in the trafficking phenomenon,” she says.

The proceedings from the forum will be made available for everyone at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies website.